Tag Archives: brain

New research identifies blood biomarker for predicting dementia before symptoms develop

New research from NUI Galway and Boston University has identified a blood biomarker that could help identify people with the earliest signs of dementia, even before the onset of symptoms.

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The study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

The researchers measured blood levels of P-tau181, a marker of neurodegeneration, in 52 cognitively healthy adults, from the US-based Framingham Heart Study, who later went on to have specialised brain PET scans. The blood samples were taken from people who had no cognitive symptoms and who had normal cognitive testing at the time of blood testing. 

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MSU research could lead to new Alzheimer’s treatments

Working with tiny bacteria, Michigan State University researchers led by Lee Kroos have made a discovery that could have big implications for biology. 

The researchers revealed a new way that nature can inhibit or switch off important proteins known as intramembrane proteases — pronounced “pro tea aces” — which the team reported April 26th in the journal eLife.

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Although the Spartans made this finding using a model organism, a microbe known as Bacillus subtilis, this type of protein is highly conserved, which is how evolutionary biologists say, “it’s everywhere.” 

These types of proteases are found in organisms that span the kingdoms of life, from single-celled bacteria to people. In fact, the first intramembrane protease was discovered in humans in 1997 and perhaps the best-known member of this family, named gamma-secretase, is implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. 

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“Good cholesterol’ particles may have a role in Alzheimer’s prevention

First-ever study to measure high-density lipoprotein particle numbers in spinal fluid led by Keck School of Medicine of USC

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Medical guidelines meant to reduce risk for heart disease focus on levels of cholesterol in the blood, including low-density lipoproteins (LDL), labeled “bad cholesterol,” and high-density lipoproteins (HDL), labeled as “good.” Now, a new study suggests an important connection between good cholesterol particles in cerebrospinal fluid and brain health as well.

Researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of USC took samples of cerebrospinal fluid from people aged 60 and older and measured the amount of small HDL particles in each sample. The team found that a higher number of these particles in the fluid is associated with two key indicators that the particles might have a protective effect against Alzheimer’s disease.

One indicator is better performance on cognitive tests. The other indicator is higher circulating levels in the cerebrospinal fluid of a particular peptide — like a protein, but smaller — called amyloid beta 42. Although that peptide contributes to Alzheimer’s disease when it misfolds and clumps onto neurons, an increased concentration circulating around the brain and spine is actually linked to lower risk for the disease.

“This study represents the first time that small HDL particles in the brain have been counted,” said Hussein Yassine, M.D., an associate professor of medicine and neurology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “They may be involved with the clearance and excretion of the peptides that form the amyloid plaques we see in Alzheimer’s disease, so we speculate that there could be a role for these small HDL particles in prevention.”

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Combination of biomarkers can identify common cognitive disease

In recent years, subcortical small-vessel disease has become an increasingly common cognitive diagnosis. Researchers at University of Gothenburg have now shown that it is possible to identify patients with the disease by combining two biomarkers that are measured in spinal fluid and blood, increasing the potential for both treatment and development of medication.

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Subcortical small-vessel disease is one of the most common cognitive diseases, along with Alzheimer’s disease and mixed dementia, which is a form in which Alzheimer’s disease occurs together with vascular damage in the brain.

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The beginning of a new paradigm for understanding the brain – HBP

“The way we study the brain has changed fundamentally in recent years,” says first author Katrin Amunts, Human Brain Project (HBP) Scientific Director, Director of the C. and O. Vogt-Institute of Brain Research, Düsseldorf and Director at the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine at Research Centre Jülich. “In the past, separate communities have often focused on specific aspects of neuroscience, and the problem was always how to link the different worlds, for example, in order to explain a certain cognitive function in terms of the underlying neurobiology.”

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The HBP has brought together communities from different disciplines and countries to work collaboratively on common goals. In the new eNeuro article „Linking brain structure, activity and cognitive function through computation”, the HBP researchers outline their scientific approach and illustrate the potential of the EBRAINS infrastructure for neuroscience research.

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Memory formation influenced by how brain networks develop during youth

  • As our brains mature, two key memory regions’ precise communication boost formation of lasting memories
  • Study suggests how ‘your brain is learning to multitask as you get older’
  • ‘By understanding how something comes to be — memory, in this instance — it gives us windows into why it eventually falls apart’

In a new, rare study of direct brain recordings in children and adolescents, a Northwestern Medicine scientist and colleagues from Wayne State University have discovered as brains mature, the precise ways by which two key memory regions in the brain communicate make us better at forming lasting memories. The findings also suggest how brains learn to multitask with age. 

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The study was published Feb. 15 in Current Biology.

Historically, a lack of high-resolution data from children’s brains have led to gaps in our understanding of how the developing brain forms memories. The study innovated the use of intracranial electroencephalogram (iEEG) on pediatric patients to examine how brain development supports memory development. 

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Anyone can become creative – OSU Study

Researchers have developed a new method for training people to be creative, one that shows promise of succeeding far better than current ways of sparking innovation.

This new method, based on narrative theory, helps people be creative in the way children and artists are: By making up stories that imagine alternative worlds, shift perspective and generate unexpected actions.

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The narrative method works by recognizing that we’re all creative, said Angus Fletcher, who developed the method and is a professor of English and a member of The Ohio State University’s (OSU) Project Narrative.

“We as a society radically undervalue the creativity of kids and many others because we are obsessed with the idea that some people are more creative than others,” Fletcher said.

“But the reality is that we’re just not training creativity in the right way.”

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Three biggest risk factors for dementia – AHA

Nearly half of all dementia cases in the U.S. may be linked to a dozen modifiable risk factors – most notably high blood pressure, obesity and physical inactivity, according to new research reported by the American Heart Association (AHA). The findings suggest a large portion of dementia cases could be prevented, especially among Black and Hispanic adults, who had the highest percentage of combined risk factors.

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“There are things people can do that can raise or lower their individual risk” for dementia, said Mark Lee, a PhD candidate at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. He led the study presented Friday at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention, Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health conference.

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Singing in the brain …

With apologies to Gene Kelly for his unforgettable performance in the 1952 epic “Singing in the Rain,” we have the formidable Massachusetts Institute of Technology weighing in on the subject of singing in the brain.

For the first time, MIT neuroscientists have identified a population of neurons in the human brain that lights up when we hear singing, but not other types of music.

These neurons, found in the auditory cortex, appear to respond to the specific combination of voice and music, but not to either regular speech or instrumental music. Exactly what they are doing is unknown and will require more work to uncover, the researchers say.

“The work provides evidence for relatively fine-grained segregation of function within the auditory cortex, in a way that aligns with an intuitive distinction within music,” says Sam Norman-Haignere, a former MIT postdoc who is now an assistant professor of neuroscience at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

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Poor Score on Simple Memory Test May Be Linked to Alzheimer’s Biomarkers

Among people with no memory or thinking problems, having a poor score on a simple memory test may be linked to biomarkers in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease as well as very early signs of memory impairment that precede dementia by several years, according to a study published in the February 23, 2022, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

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“These findings suggest that this test can be used to improve our ability to detect cognitive decline in the stage before people are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease,” said study author Ellen Grober, PhD, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York. “This could be helpful in determining who to enroll in clinical trials for prevention of cognitive decline. It could also help by narrowing down those who already have signs of Alzheimer’s in the brain with a simple test rather than expensive or invasive scans or lumbar punctures.”

For the test, people are shown pictures of items and given cues about the item’s category, such as a picture of grapes with the cue of “fruit.” Then participants are asked to remember the items, first on their own, then with the category cues for any items they did not remember. This type of controlled learning helps with the mild memory retrieval problems that occur in many healthy elderly people but does not have much impact on memory for people with dementia, Grober said.

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Mental Speed Hardly Changes over a Lifespan

Mental speed – the speed at which we can deal with issues requiring rapid decision-making – does not change substantially over decades. Psychologists at Heidelberg University have come to this conclusion. Under the leadership of Dr Mischa von Krause and Dr Stefan Radev, they evaluated data from a large-scale online experiment with over a million participants. The findings of the new study suggest that the speed of cognitive information processing remains largely stable between the ages of 20 and 60, and only deteriorates at higher ages. The Heidelberg researchers have hereby called into question the assumption to date that mental speed starts to decline already in early adulthood.

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“The common assumption is that the older we get, the more slowly we react to external stimuli. If that were so, mental speed would be fastest at the age of about twenty and would then decline with increasing age,” says Dr von Krause, a researcher in the Quantitative Research Methods department headed by Prof. Dr Andreas Voß at Heidelberg University’s Institute of Psychology. In order to verify this theory, the researchers re-evaluated data from a large-scale American study on implicit biases. In the online experiment with over a million participants, subjects had to press a button to sort pictures of people into the categories “white” or “black” and words into the categories “good” or “bad”. According to Dr von Krause, the content focus was of minor importance in the Heidelberg study. Instead, the researchers used the large batch of data as an example of a response-time task to measure the duration of cognitive decisions.

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High blood pressure in younger adults linked to midlife brain changes

Research Highlights:

  • Younger adults (ages 20-40) with high blood pressure had brain changes by midlife (average age 55) that may increase their risk of cognitive decline later in life or over time.
  • These changes were similar across all races and ethnic groups examined in the study when accounting for the degree of high blood pressure exposure.
  • The findings suggest health care professionals consider more aggressive high blood pressure treatment for younger adults to prevent brain changes in later life.
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High blood pressure among younger adults, ages 20-40 years, appears to be linked to brain changes in midlife (average age 55) that may increase risk for later cognitive decline, according to preliminary research to be presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2022, a world premier meeting for researchers and clinicians dedicated to the science of stroke and brain health to be held in person in New Orleans and virtually, Feb. 8-11, 2022.

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Brain images show less injury and look healthier in adults with heart-healthy lifestyle

Research Highlights:

  • On imaging tests, brains were larger (the brain usually shrinks in size with increasing age and health conditions) and showed fewer signs of injury in early to late middle-aged people (ages 40-69 years) who had higher scores for cardiovascular health.
  • An analysis of more than 35,000 adults with no history of stroke or dementia found that maintaining good cardiovascular health, in addition to protecting against heart attack and stroke, appeared to also be beneficial to overall brain health.

On imaging tests, brains were larger and showed fewer signs of injury in early to late middle-aged adults (ages 40-69 years) who had nearly ideal cardiovascular health, according to preliminary research to be presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2022, a world premier meeting for researchers and clinicians dedicated to the science of stroke and brain health to be held in person in New Orleans and virtually, Feb. 8-11, 2022.

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“Maintaining good cardiovascular health, as reflected in an optimal Life’s Simple 7 score, helps to prevent cardiovascular events such as stroke and heart attack, and also supports overall brain health, both are essential for quality of life,” said Julian N. Acosta, M.D., lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow in the Falcone Lab in the division of neurocritical care in the department of neurology at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut.

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Researchers provide insight into how the brain multitasks while walking

New research turns the old idiom about not being able to walk and chew gum on its head. Scientists with the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester have shown that the healthy brain is able to multitask while walking without sacrificing how either activity is accomplished.

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“This research shows us that the brain is flexible and can take on additional burdens,” said David Richardson, an MD/PhD student in his fifth year in the Pathology & Cell Biology of Disease Program, and first author of the study recently published in the journal NeuroImage. “Our findings showed that the walking patterns of the participants improved when they performed a cognitive task at the same time, suggesting they were actually more stable while walking and performing the task than when they were solely focused on walking.”

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Exercise, Not Just Sudoku for Seniors

Grampa, when you finish that puzzle please slip on your walking shoes and step outside.

A lot of senior citizens are doing Sudoku puzzles and crosswords to ‘exercise their brains’ and slow the aging process. These puzzles can be fun, and they do build puzzle-solving skills which are long-lasting. They are not even half the battle against aging, though.

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“Unless the activities that you’re practicing span a broad spectrum of abilities, then there is not a proven general benefit to these mental fitness programs. So, the idea that any single brain exercise program late in life can act as a quick fix for general mental function is almost entirely faith-based,” Professor Wang said in our post on physical exercise vs mental exercise.

Walking, on the other hand, boosts blood flow to the brain. Medicine.net reported that moderate aerobic exercise helps boost blood flow to the brain.
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Exercise may save your aging brain – Study

I can’t even guess how many times I have written about the benefits physical exercise has on the brain as well as the body. I would also like to repeat that my family has numerous occurrences of dementia, in general, and Alzheimer’s, in particular. My aunt and her sister both suffered from those afflictions. My father was fine and his life ended with no cognitive afflictions. However, his father was afflicted. He used to wander off and the police would pick him up and call my father to come get him. Remember, this was the early 1940’s. Additionally, while my father was fine, his sister and her daughter both had cognitive impairment. Hence, my interest in preserving my cognitive abilities into my old age.

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So, I was gratified to read the latest findings on Alzheimer’s and Dementia from the Alzheimer’s Association.

As HealthDay News reported, “Exercise helps you stay fit, hale and hearty, and researchers say it may also help you stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Now they have a better understanding of the hidden benefits that aid the brain.
“Older folks who are more physically active have higher levels of a protein that promotes better communication between the brain’s synapses, a new study reports.”
People as old as 80’s and 90’s whose brains were riddles with amyloid plaques had better mental functions if they were more active.
The study indicated that physical activity can promote resilience in the brain.
“If you can keep brain cells healthy and communicating longer, you may slow the changes you would see in disease or you may be able to decrease the vulnerability of the brain to other injury or other insult,” Heather Snyder, vice president of medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association said.
To read further on the subject, check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits).

Tony

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